JULY 9TH, 2015

36213157_sI want to start by saying parents do have a lot more influence with their children than they think. Don’t be fooled by your kids appearing not to listen to you. They’re listening. And when it comes to preventing substance abuse what you say is important.

In 2013, SAMSHA (Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration) reported that “according to the 2004 to 2011 National Surveys on Drug Use and Health, 1 in 5 (22.3 percent) parents of teens aged 12 to 17 thought that what they said would have little influence on whether their child used drugs. Nearly 1 in 10 parents of teens (9.1 percent) said they did not talk to their child about the dangers of using alcohol, tobacco, or other drugs in the past year. Nonetheless, among the parents who had not talked to their child, the majority (67.7 percent) thought what they say would influence whether their child uses drugs.”

A 2013 study by the MetLife Foundation and The Partnership at reported, “Teen prescription drug misuse and abuse continues to be a significant health problem threatening the well-being of American youth. Currently, one in four teens (24 percent) admits to having misused or abused a prescription drug at least once in their lifetime. It is a bigger problem than many parents know or really understand.

Parent permissiveness and lax attitudes toward misuse and abuse of prescription medicines, coupled with teens’ ease of access to prescription medicines in the home are linked to teen medicine misuse and abuse. The availability of prescription drugs (in the family medicine cabinet, in the homes of friends and family) makes them that much easier to misuse and abuse, and the new survey findings stress that teens are more likely to misuse and abuse prescription medicines if they think their parents are okay with it.”

I have stated over-and-over again that the line of communication between parents and children, particularly teens, needs to be a good one. Whether discussing drugs, sexual preference, depression, peer pressure or any of the many other stresses that affect kids and teens today, you have to engage in the conversation. As important as talking to your kids is listening to them. Listen to their concerns and try to understand how they feel. Do your homework too. Read up on substance abuse and teens. Understand how difficult it is for a teen to “come out”. Seek support when you need it. There are plenty of groups including drug awareness and substance prevention coalitions that will help you.

The MetLife Foundation and The Partnership at concluded that “Parents and caregivers are missing a key opportunity to play an active role in helping curb the trend of teen medicine misuse and abuse. Parents can safeguard prescriptions in their home, educate themselves about the dangers and risks of this dangerous behavior (for their teens and themselves), and communicate those risks to their children.”

Lastly, I want to remind parents that communication isn’t always verbal. Body language and actions can speak volumes about what is going on in a teenager’s life. Know the signs of substance abuse, bullying, eating disorders and more. The more you understand what your kids face growing up in the world today the better able you are to help. A number of my blogs deal directly with teen struggles with sexual identity, learning disorders and drug and substance abuse. Take a look.  Another good reference is the SAMSHA handbook, “Navigating the Teen Years: A Parent’s Handbook for Raising Healthy Teens”. Check it out.

Read the study: The MetLife Foundation and The Partnership at

This blog is intended for educational purposes only. It is not intended as medical or psychiatric advice for individual conditions or treatment and does not substitute for a medical or psychiatric examination. A psychiatrist must make a determination about any treatment or prescription. Dr. Paul does not assume any responsibility or risk for the use of any information contained within this blog.

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